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University of Oxford Faculty of English

Mendelssohn, Michèle

Position: Associate Professor; Tutorial Fellow, Mansfield College
College: Mansfield

Period/Subject: Late 19th & Early 20th Century British and American Literature

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My research and teaching interests cover British and American literature from 1830 to the present day. I teach undergraduates, co-convene the M.St. in English Language and Literature (1830–1914) and supervise several DPhil students. In 2011-2013, I was Victorian Period Convenor.

I am Deputy Director of the Rothermere American Institute. I have been a member of the RAI's Academic Committee (since 2013), co-convened the American Literature Research Seminar (2012-2014), and co-organised the Alain Locke in the 21st Century Symposium.

I have written for The New York Times and The Guardian, and have been interviewed in The Scotsman and on CBC radio.  I am on the editorial board of English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920 and the Canadian Review of American Studies. I review for journals, and advise on book proposals for Oxford University Press and Ashgate, among others. 

Born in Montréal, Canada, I grew up bilingual and studied for a joint degree in English Literature and Liberal Arts at Concordia University. After graduating, I studied German and American literature at the University of Heidelberg as a Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst Fellow. In 1999, I won a scholarship to Cambridge University where I completed my M.Phil. (First) and Ph.D. at King's College. In 2001, I went to Harvard University as a Fulbright Scholar and Departmental Associate in English. Before joining Oxford’s English Faculty in 2009, I taught at Edinburgh University, Boston University, Harvard, Cambridge, and Heidelberg. 


My research ranges from the 19th century to the present day, and covers both sides of the Atlantic. My work has won several awards including a Leverhulme Trust Research FellowshipDonald C. Gallup Fellowship in American literature (Yale), Obert C. and Grace A. Tanner Visiting Research Fellowship (Utah), Research Fellowship in African American History and Culture (Emory University), and an Eccles Centre American Studies Visiting Fellowship (British Library).


I have several books in progress. The first is a biography of the young Oscar Wilde. Two co-edited books are in press: Oxford 21st Century Approaches to Literature: Late Victorian into Modern (Oxford University Press, 2016) and Alan Hollinghurst: Writing Under the Influence (Manchester University Press, 2016). 

My first book was Henry James, Oscar Wilde and Aesthetic Culture (Edinburgh University Press, 2007). It was reissued in paperback in 2014. This book asked why being "aesthetic" mattered so much to Victorians on both sides of the Atlantic. It explained how Aestheticism (the literary and artistic movement that flourished between the 1860s and early 1900s) responded to British and American anxieties about culture, nationality, sexuality and originality. The book begins by reconfiguring Aestheticism as a transatlantic dialogue, and making Henry James and Oscar Wilde the critical figures in this conversation. It then shows that the lifelong rivalry between these two preeminent authors actually reflected a creative dynamic that dominated aesthetic culture on both sides of the sea. This dynamic is traced through James's and Wilde's works, as well as through their relationships with the Impressionist painter James McNeill Whistler, and the novelist and Punch cartoonist George Du Maurier. The book argues that this dynamic is a bridge over culturally troubled waters. Using queer theory alongside historically-grounded close readings, the book reveals that James's and Wilde's relationship was symptomatic of vital and transformative cultural exchanges that shaped Anglo-American Modernism.

Selected articles and chapters

Recent Conferences and Talks

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